According to the Gospels, Jesus’ baptism was one of the most significant events in his earthly life. When John the Baptist performed the ceremony in the Jordan River and immersed his cousin in the water, all three members of the Trinity were present. The event began Jesus’ public ministry. A common question Bible readers have regards how old Jesus was when John baptized him.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was about 30 years old when John baptized him. The verse in the original Greek language includes a word that reflects an approximation, which is why modern translations say that he was “about” 30. In the Bible, 30 years of age has great significance.
Why was John the Baptist reluctant to baptize Jesus? What did Jesus say that convinced John to immerse Jesus in the water? What’s the significance of being 30 years in the Old Testament? What events are on the timeline of Jesus’ first year of public ministry? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also, see Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree? to learn more.
What’s the Significance of Jesus Being 30 Years Old?
When Jesus went to John for baptism, there was no record of his sermons, miracles, or one-on-one conversations. All those stories had yet to happen. While Matthew and Luke recount the stories of Jesus’ birth, his baptism is like a stage curtain lifting in the Gospels. Jesus’ public ministry was about to begin.
John initially hesitated to perform the baptism because he knew Jesus was “mightier” (ESV, KJV, NASB) or “more powerful” (NIV, CSB) than him and that he was unworthy (Matt. 3:11, ESV). John may have known about his cousin’s uniqueness from the stories his mother, Elizabeth, and aunt, Mary, told him (Luke 1-2).
Jesus responded to John’s reluctance, saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15, ESV). Another translation says, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires” (NLT). After that, John agreed to baptize Jesus.
Matthew’s report of the account says, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'” (Matt. 3:16-17).
|The Father||spoke from heaven|
|The Son||was baptized|
|The Holy Spirit||descended like a dove|
In his Gospel, after John baptized Jesus (Luke 3:21-22), Luke adds, “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (ESV). Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention Jesus’ age at his baptism.
The approximation implied in the word “about” is clearly stated in the Greek text. The word is an adverb, hosei (ὡσεί), and when it’s used with numbers, it means the figure is a close estimate.
Also, see How Many Brothers Did Jesus Have? to learn more.
30 Years Old Was the Age of Public Service
New Testament scholar, Joel B. Green, calls 30 years old “the age of public service,” according to important offices in ancient Israel.  The evidence in the Old Testament suggests that prophets, priests, and kings began their public service at 30.
(1) God called men, like Ezekiel, to the office of prophet at 30 years old. “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (Ezek. 1:1, ESV).
(2) God called men from the tribe of Levi to the office of priest at 30 years old. “Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting” (Num. 4:3, NIV).
(3) God called men, like David, to the office of king at 30 years old. “David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years” (2 Sam. 5:4).
Luke scholar Darrell Bock, writes, “The age of thirty has been taken as symbolic of the appropriate age for the beginning of public service, since many OT offices could be filled at that age… However, the number should not be taken as merely symbolic or theological, since Luke gives only an approximate number.” 
Also, see What Did Jesus Eat? to learn more.
Jesus’ First Year of Public Ministry: A Timeline
Most New Testament scholars estimate that Mary gave birth to Jesus between 6 and 4 B.C. Errors in calendar-making centuries later explain how Jesus was born “before Christ.”
|Jesus is born||5-6 B.C.||Matt. 1:24-25|
|Jesus, Mary, and Joseph flee to Egypt||3-4 B.C.||Matt. 2:1-12|
|Adolescent Jesus teaches in the temple||7-8 A.D.||Luke 2:46-47|
Matthew and Luke include stories about Jesus’ birth until he was two years old. However, there is only one story in all of the Gospels of Jesus between his infancy and public ministry, which tells of him at 12 years old teaching in the temple (Luke 2:46-47).
After those two verses in Luke, the Gospels are silent until Jesus appears, asking John to baptize him when he was about 30. From that point, readers can construct a more precise timeline of his life until his crucifixion, which occurred about three years later.
|John the Baptist baptizes Jesus||26-27 A.D.||Matt. 3:13-17|
|Jesus’ first miracle at Cana||26-27 A.D.||John 2:1-11|
|Jesus is tempted in the wilderness||26-27 A.D.||Matt. 4:1-11|
|Jesus cleanses the temple||27 A.D. (Winter)||John 2:13-15|
|Jesus meets Nicodemus||27 A.D. (Winter)||John 3:1-21|
|Jesus meets the Samaritan woman||27 A.D. (Winter)||John 4:5-42|
|Jesus begins to preach in Galilee||27 A.D. (Fall)||Luke 4:42-44|
Also, see Who Walked on Water with Jesus? to learn more.
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